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The Dysfunctional Theatre Company
Founded in 1997 by playwright Paul Wells, THE DYSFUNCTIONAL THEATRE COMPANY is a collective dedicated to producing ensemble works that challenge the status quo without taking themselves too seriously. The company officially incorporated in 1998, achieved non-profit status in 1999, and has produced over 30 shows in its history, many of them original works. Dysfunctional celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2007 with the Dysfunctional 10th Anniversary Benefit Extravaganza, which featured selections from Dysfunctional shows both old and new, as well as the appearance of many veteran Dysfunctional actors.
Some early Dysfunctional highlights include Alien Sex Cult Clones Madonna!, a late-night satire of tabloid journalism, which ran successfully for almost a year in various downtown venues; its sequel, Princess Di's Brain Kept Alive in Graceland!, which ran for nearly six months; Vampire Stewardesses from Hell!!, which played to sold-out houses at Under St. Mark's Theater; and How To Have The Ultimate Orgasm Each and Every Time, featuring articles staged verbatim from Glamour and Maxim magazines.
In 2000, the company returned to the NYC International Fringe Festival (where it previously staged Sodom, by Sir John Wilmot) with its hit comedy I Am Star Trek, written by playwright Rick Vorndran. I Am Star Trek was later optioned and produced at the 2001 and 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festivals to strong critical acclaim.
Dysfunctional shows have been described as "gripping, well-made drama staged with economy and sensitivity and intelligence" (Real Live Sex Onstage, 2001), "eclectic, quintessentially off-off Broadway" (Please Please Please Love Me, 2003) and "Grade-A avant-garde downtown theatre" (Hoover: A Love Story, 2004).
In 2005 Dysfunctional revived one of its early traditions and began staging an annual Christmas show Jeff Goode's The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. Dysfunctional has staged 3 productions of this dark adult, modern Christmas classic. Time Out New York called the show "a comedy that puts the X in Xmas" and featured it prominently in the 2005 article "Blue Christmas," a piece which focused on non-traditional holiday fare.
2006 saw the long running production of Bite, a new work written by Suzanne Bachner and created in conjunction with Dysfunctional artists. Bite featured audience participation and a "choose your own adventure" format, which offered a different experience for the audience at every performance.
In 2007 Dysfunctional was part of the first ever FRIGID New York festival, produced by its host company, Horse Trade Theater. The festival served as the New York premiere for Orange Murder Suit, a thriller by playwright Rob Matsushita, which was called "gripping theatre; definitely a must-see at this first FRIGID New York festival" by Martin Denton of NYTheatre.com.
Dysfunctional produced the political satire Chosen, written by company member Rick Vorndran, as part of FRIGID 2008, winning the festivals Sold Out Show Award. In 2009, the company debuted the new work The Dysfunctional Guide to Home Perfection, Marital Bliss & Passionate Hot Romance, which was created by the company members, based off historical writings by women through the ages, as well as drawing from their own experiences. Dysfunctional Guide won both the Sold Out Show & Audience Choice Awards for FRIGID 2009.
In October of 2008 Dysfunctional mixed up their holiday theatrical tradition by producing a Halloween show. Brew of the Dead, a new horror comedy by Patrick Storck played through October to sold out houses and glowing reviews “What Scream did for slasher movies, Brew of the Dead does for zombie flicks... an awesome way to kick off the Halloween season.” – Leah Carr, Theater Is Easy. The sequel, Brew of the Dead II: Oktoberflesh was produced in 2011 with gore effects by Stephanie Cox-Williams. Said W. Kenton of Culture Capitol, “"[A] supremely post-ironic moment has arrived in the Brew of the Dead franchise." The original Brew of the Dead is currently being adapted into a motion picture.
2009 saw the debut of the Dysfunctional Theatre Classics series with Arsenic & Old Lace. The mission of the Classics Series is to produce underperformed scripts from the previous centuries or to give a new take on "classic" plays of past centuries. All of these works are still considered Dysfunctional; the idea is to encourage the audience to perceive them in a new light and to realize that dysfunction isn't a product of 21st or even 20th century life; it's a product of the human condition. Arsenic & Old Lace challenged expectations of audiences by its very presence on the off off Broadway stage, and was called “just as humorous and captivating as the 1941 movie starring Cary Grant” by NY Press and “a highlight of the indie theater calendar” by Martin Denton of NYTheatre.
In 2010 the Classics Series produced A Voluminous Evening of Brevity and, in 2011, A Cavalcade of Curiosities. Voluminous was an evening of short plays by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, WB Yeats and Susan Glaspell. Cavalcade represented an expansion of the Classic’s mission, to incorporate the works of new playwrights with historic works and featured plays by Fitzgerald, 10th century nun Hrosvitha and downtown artist Trav S.D.
Currently Dysfunctional is producing Unlicensed, an eight part serialized comedy by Josh Hartung, about an alternate reality where the 30th Amendment has put government controls on entertainment and criminalized indietheatre.